From interpretation to action; standards for evaluating ethnography in the built environment

Rooke, JA and Rooke, C 2012, 'From interpretation to action; standards for evaluating ethnography in the built environment' , in: Ethnographic research in the construction industry , Routledge Advances in Sociology , Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 141-159.

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (348kB) | Request a copy


The development of ethnographic work in construction management in recent years has been associated with a growing challenge to the dominant positivist paradigm within the subject area. Ethnography, with its emphasis on shared meaning and its consequent problematisation of the author's’ point of view, presents particular difficulties for the positivist project of a unitary scientific method. Few readers of this book are likely to see the emergence of a broad range of alternative methodological orientations, variously described as inter alia, qualitative, interpretative, or critical, as anything other than a welcome sign of progress. Nevertheless, this proliferation of approaches, combined with the necessary informality of ethnographic methods, raises doubts among many in the subject area as to the rigour of these approaches. On the other hand, both the rigour and relevance of positivist driven approaches have been questioned. In this chapter, we seek to develop an approach to rigour in ethnographic work in the built environment which draws upon ideas from ethnomethodology and constructive research. Building on previously published ethnomethodologically informed contributions to built environment research, we argue that the unique adequacy (UA) requirement of methods provides a more rigorous and universal standard for management research than either positivist or accepted social constructionist criteria In particular, we propose that UA, by focusing attention on indigenous evaluation (that is to say, the methods of evaluation made in specific settings, by members of those settings) provides a vindication for ethnographic findings, particularly as they relate to important issues of organization, incentive, and value. It tends to be overlooked in the literature that the weak UA requirement is proposed by Garfinkel as a criterion for all ethnographic research, not simply ethnomethodology. Recognising the nature of the design and management disciplines that predominate in the built environment as applied disciplines, we address the need for research criteria that address their particular needs. We draw on current research on wayfinding in complex hospital settings to explore the relationships between ethnography, UA and design.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Pink, S, Tutt, D and Dainty, A
Themes: Built and Human Environment
Schools: Schools > School of the Built Environment
Schools > School of the Built Environment > Centre for Urban Processes, Resilient Infrastructures & Sustainable Environments
Publisher: Routledge
Refereed: Yes
Series Name: Routledge Advances in Sociology
ISBN: 978-0-415-60343-0
Funders: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Depositing User: JA Rooke
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2012 14:11
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 05:21

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year